The pharmaceutical industry has traditionally been focused on supporting the delivery of R&D into commercially available treatment to improve patients quality of life. As this traditional product-centric approach has been shaping the organization & strategy of the pharmaceutical companies for decades, recent innovations and increased compliance requirements have led this industry to re-think their business model with a more holistic approach, thus shifting from “product-centricity” to “patient-centricity”; from “cure” to “care”. Medical Affairs are at the forefront of this transformation. Their role is evolving from traditionally supporting business through classic scientific evidence generation to creating value for business. Their unique positioning as a trustworthy function at the crossroad between all healthcare stakeholders (patients, healthcare professionals, regulators,…) also represents a unique opportunity to redefine their engagement strategy with enhanced scientific evidences and transparency and to deliver strong scientific value to patients and healthcare professionals. A new vision for Medical Affairs is required for transformation, with new challenges to tackle such as patient-centricity, health data management & governance and digital innovation to enable this change of paradigm for the pharmaceutical industry.
As Medical Affairs is facing such challenges, Medical Affairs must build & leverage new capabilities to move from their traditional role to a pillar function which endorsing strong business value. The next generation of Medical Affairs considers powerful activities to endorse business acceleration and resilience.
“What increasingly separates the winners from the losers is the ability to transform data into insights […] and to turn those insights into strategy.” This quote of Frank van den Driest et al from the Harvard Business Review  highlights how important it is to efficiently generate and manage insights for any business, including the pharmaceutical industry. While market insights were traditionally generated by marketing teams, Medical Affairs are increasingly generating scientific insights through classical ways (publications, reports) but also by leveraging health data science technology such as real-world evidence and social listening. Medical Affairs are therefore becoming a key partner within the organization to identify valuable scientific patient & HCP insights and leverage the most relevant of them into the brand strategy plan. Medical Affairs, as a pillar function, must build a powerful insights engine to nurture the entire organisation and associated ecosystem.
As Medical Affairs becoming a “Pillar Function” oriented towards innovation improving patients quality of life as a whole, its organization and governance must be adapted to include these new capabilities, with new roles ranging from patient officers to digital project managers to be able to design and lead innovative patients & HCP products & services coming from previously leveraged insights. Medical Affairs are therefore strengthening their leadership by developing innovative products & services driving business value and eventually become a key internal partner for portfolio development. As a trusted function, Medical Affairs are therefore well positioned to develop collaborative and open innovation (Thought Leaders, Patients Advocacy Groups, startup…) to co-create healthcare solutions with the entire ecosystem of the company and focus on value.
Medical Affairs are uniquely positioned at the crossroad of healthcare stakeholders, interacting with Thought Leaders, HCPs, Patients Advocacy Groups and healthcare authorities, and can therefore determining the best strategies to engage them and develop sustainable relationships based on trust. Introducing patient-centric capabilities & culture within Medical Affairs in association with the development of relevant digital tools leads to a totally controlled healthcare ecosystem from which emanate winning partnerships driving an optimal positioning of the value proposition. The next generation of Medical Affairs will be challenged with the renewal of medical education and alongside with it, the role and positioning of MSLs, to strongly engage HCP, patients and demonstrate added scientific value.
Science, safety and transparency are the key drivers of the Medical Affairs to establish and maintain the unbiased and trustworthy nature of the function and represent therefore a key stake area to consider. Such required scientific evidence can today be generated through innovative ways enabled by the digital era requiring deep analytical capabilities to effectively manage and analyze health-related data emanating from various sources ranging from real-world studies to connected clinical trials. These capabilities must then be integrated into a clearly defined evidence governance and planning owned by Medical Affairs. For example, benefit-risk management represents a powerful playing field to develop innovative approaches allowing to anticipate and drive strategy.
The transformation journey of Medical Affairs from Support Function to Pillar Function leverages the opportunities offered by the new technologies to adopt a more holistic approach of healthcare and improve patients quality of life as whole. Leveraging strategic insights to deliver innovative projects in partnership with the healthcare ecosystem will eventually generate high business value, thus rendering Medical Affairs a key internal player, while benefiting to patients and HCPs, making them more prone to engagement. A successful Medical Affairs transformation requires the integration of new capabilities (digital, analytics,…) in a patient-centric organization supported by agile processes & collaborative tools to emancipate the full potential of this singular function.
 Building an Insights Engine by Frank van den Driest and al, September 2016, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2016/09/building-an-insights-engine